Happy Easter, HOPEspotters ! ( Don’t go away non Easter celebrators.) Today is a day of HOPE for all of us and I am inviting you to the church of hope, a place where I preach. I have a message I want to share and I think it is for us all. I believe a story of overcoming and rising has a universal appeal and a timeless application. And I LOVE stories.
So without being biblical, as I am no one’s theologian, let’s just review the story. Good Friday: Jesus is crucified and dies. Placed in a tomb that is sealed with a stone. Holy Saturday, we sit and wait. I’ve already written about that as the day we need to hold space for each other. Easter Sunday, the disciples, the friends, show up at the tomb of their friend and the stone has been rolled back, the tomb is empty. Jesus is resurrected and the miracle becomes legend.
For those that believe, the miracle of Jesus defeating death has been the basis of their faith. It’s an answered prayer, a promise fulfilled.
But this is the church of hope, preached by me and I’m only asking for attention to the story, not the theology. The story is Jesus was crucified by people who didn’t believe in Him. He was dead. Placed in a tomb by those that loved and mourned Him. Not one of them expected what they would find on Sunday.
In this story, the message is deep and wide and loud and clear.
The stone was rolled back. After the miracle, being trapped in the tomb was not tolerated.
I’ve been to church on Easter almost every year of my life and I’ve heard about the empty tomb. I’ve yet to hear (and if I’ve missed it, shame on me) discussion on the events in that tomb. Like, what EXACTLY happened? Jesus was lying in there dead and God’s miracle came and restored life to Him. Jesus woke up after a hideous crucifiction ALIVE.
But what happened next? HOW did the stone get rolled back? Scripture would have you believe it was a very large boulder that sealed this man’s tomb. Who took care of the stone?
In my head, the details are clear: Jesus woke up and recognized the miracle bestowed on him. The opportunity. The second chance. But the boulder that sealed his tomb remained. It was dark. And confusing. Maybe Jesus cried and thought, “why am I STILL in the dark??”
The burden of a miracle is ia gift that should not be wasted. It was decision time. What to do with this massive stone?
The newly resurrected man knew with certainty.
With human grit and renewed determination, Jesus rolled it back himself.
In my whole heart, I believe there was an epic battle in the tomb on Saturday night/ Sunday morning. Jesus, fresh off a resurrection, gathered up more strength than he thought he had and pushed and sweated and shoved and moved that stone. God’s miracle was to bring Him back to life. Moving the stone was all on Him.
It wasn’t easy. Budge, push, wiggle, move. A crack of light provided new determination.
Scripture assures us, He got out.
My HOPEspot friends, let me bring you back to my prayer for you:
ROLL. BACK. THE. STONE.
DON”T LET CRUCIFIXION END YOU.
IT’S NOT EASY. You. MUST GET OUT.
What am I saying? WHAT IS YOUR STONE?
Friends, I believe we all have stones that keep us locked in our tombs. Despite the miracle of second chances that we’ve all been granted, we remain in a dark tomb. All of us. Even the best of us.
What are our stones? What seems to have crucified you? Addiction? Anger? Lack of forgiveness? Denial? Fear? Feelings of inadequacy? Hanging on to a bad situation? Stones that keep us in a tomb and away from the life of our dreams.
Big. Bad. Stones. Stones that keep us from celebrating our miracle of second chances. Crucifixion did not define Jesus. It shouldn’t define us.
I have a really brave friend. This friend has a child who struggled with some anxiety, crippling at times. My friend made the brave choice to send her child to a place that treated her around the clock and ultimately healed the child.
Talking to my friend about the hard choice she made, she admitted that she had resisted the “last resort”. In hindsight, my friend wished she had succumbed earlier to what finally was the ultimate solution. My friend’s tomb was dark. Her determination to move the stone was nothing short of heroic.
And it is all over literature and the arts..
Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, perhaps the greatest character ever to exemplify redemption, sang, “My soul belongs to God, I know I made that bargain long ago, He gave me hope when hope was gone, He gave me strength to carry on.”
The wise and wonderful Dr. Seuss reminded us, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
My Easter plea is for each of you to name your stone, the one that keeps you trapped in the dark, scary tomb. Place that stone against your feeling this Easter morning and play the Jesus. Wake up. Recognize you’ve been given a miracle. Look that stone in the eye and start to rock that bitch.
I know it isn’t easy to find yourself in the dark, realizing that you have the gift of potential. You aren’t the first to struggle with that. Push, shove, dig deep thinking about all those that love you and WANT you out of that tomb.
We need you out of that tomb, friends. You can’t possibly imagine the glory and the love and the celebration that await you on the other side. So get to pushing.
What’s your stone?
Roll it back.